Thursday, January 23, 2014

Help for First Time Pregnant Mothers

As two dear friends announce their pregnancies and begin on their journeys into motherhood, I want so much to ease their transitions. I want to wrap my arms and love around them and comfort them. I want to give them words of wisdom, but I'm not sure I know how.  I still feel a lot like a new mother myself.  So, what I can do is say the things I wish I could hop in a time machine and tell myself five years ago, knowing that my friends are on different roads of motherhood and have different hopes, fears, and experiences ahead of them than I had and as I have transitioned into having now.  

There is no way to be a perfect mother, but there are a million ways to he a good one.

You will mess up. You will make wrong decisions. You will have regrets in your journey as a young mother.  Accept that and accept yourself at every stage. There is a wonderful quote about motherhood:
"The moment a child is born,
the mother is also born.
She never existed before.
The woman existed, but the mother, never.
A mother is something absolutely new." -Rajneesh

Remember in the early days that you are every bit as new and vulnerable as your baby. Just as life in the womb does little to prepare newborns for life outside the womb, your life before children does not really prepare you for the realities of mothering.  Be patient with yourself as you discover the mother you are meant to be.  Dust yourself off when you fall down and believe that with every stumble you are learning to run by learning your own boundaries and balance. Love yourself with the same compassion you give your baby.

Take your pregnancy to do two things: really connect with your partner and get as many house projects as you can done.

No matter how long you've been together and what your relationship has been and is like, having children is going to shift your relationship dramatically and sleep deprivation, stress, and finding your post baby equilibrium will all take a toll on your relationship. Build up as much romance and goodwill as you can.  Snuggle up and smooch as much as you can.  Make love both physically and emotionally with the things you do together.  Really savor these last few months when you are "you"--a couple without kids. It will be nearly twenty years before that will be the case again. As for the house projects, you cannot conceive of how much harder it is to get things done once the baby arrives. You may not think you have any time now, but post baby you will marvel at all the time you currently have.  Use it productively!

Learn about your birth options.

Educate yourself about your birth choices and know that you do have choices.  You do not have to give birth in the nearest hospital with a doctor a friend, cousin, or sister used.  Studies show that planned homebirth with a midwife can be just as safe and may result in a shorter labor with less interventions.  If you really are not comfortable with that option after researching it, you also have the options of birth centers with Certified Nurse Midwives, and independent birth centers with midwives.  You can also go to another hospital a bit further away.  You can still go the doctor at your closest hospital route, but learn what else is out there before you make your decision.  When you are in labor, the last thing you need to do is have things suggested to you that you know nothing about.  Take a good birthing class preferably not affiliated with a particular location and its practices so you can learn as much as you can.  Consider hiring a doula for your birth.  They are awesome women who will support you and your husband and greatly enhance your birth experience.

Learn about babywearing.

Wearing your baby is the absolute best thing you can do for both you and your baby.  Your baby gets to feel the security of being curled against you and you get the benefit of smelling that sweet baby smell and kissing the softest skin in the world while you get stuff done and eat things like burritos.  What's not to love?  Invest in a high quality carrier that protects your baby's hips.   You can learn all about them here and buy them used (Just in case your baby has other ideas about what s/he likes.). I will blog about that and the many benefits of baby wearing some other time. (Seriouslyinvesting in a good carrier, wrap, or sling is the best baby item you can have.)

Buy used.

Whenever you can, buy gently used. Even the most well used baby clothes are still used for only a few months. If you want to cloth diaper, I highly recommend diaperswappers.  You can find huge lots of baby clothes of all sizes on ebay and craigslist, too, for a fraction of what you would buy new.  Consignment stores, donation stores, and specialty children stores are filled to the brim with gently used, like new, baby items.  If you have friends who already have children, see if you can borrow items that can really only be used a few months like swings, bouncy seats, infant bathtubs, etc.  Save your money as much as you can for the unexpected and for items you might use longer like high chairs, booster chairs, good car seats, and baby wearing gear.

Ask for gift cards instead of trying to register for baby items you may or may not use. 

Grandparents and family members are always excited about a new baby and particularly excited about a first baby.  They will want to help you as much as they can in their excitement.  Take them up on it, let them throw you a showerbut don't feel you have to register for a whole lot of stuff when you can often get it used for a fraction of the cost at Mom to Mom sales, garage sales, and gently used kids stores.  Instead ask for gift cards.  Gift cards for your favorite department store like Target or even your grocery store are particularly useful.  That way, once your baby
gets here and you learn more about what works for him/her and his/her personality, you will have the money to accommodate those things.  And don't be afraid to ask for things like gift certificates to stores that sell nursing bras/tops/etc. and for websites like etsy where you can buy washable nursing pads, unique diaper bags, slings, babywearing coats and all kinds of fun baby gear.

Most of all, love yourself and be open with whatever you are feeling when you are feeling it.

Pregnancy and first time motherhood are times of great emotional tumult.  Do not judge yourself too harshly for it.  Sleep in, baby yourself, and be open with how you are feeling!  Get into the habit now because it will only become harder as time goes on to get into the habit.  When your baby comes all your doubts and fears may go away, or maybe not.  You might feel instantly in love, but maybe not.  None of this means you will be or are a "bad" mother.  Just like babies are not born instantly knowing how to nurse, talk, walk, etc.  A woman who has just birthed a baby does not know everything all at once, either.  

Don't ever worry about what others "think" or even what you think you should "think," instead, go with what you "feel" is right every time.

Study all you want during your pregnancy, but be kind if the answers you find beforehand are not the ones that "feel" right once you have a baby.  Mother's intuition is real and don't be afraid to listen to it.  You will still make mistakes, but at least you will know that you did what you did because you were trying your best.  

I have a friend who was sure she would love bedsharing, full term nursing, cloth diapering, and a whole host of other "natural parenting" practices.  She learned through experience that while she did like some of those things, she did not like to do them for as long as she had thought and she actually couldn't stand some of them.  I just "knew" for all nine months I was pregnant with my first (and for years beforehand), that I would never, ever let a child sleep in my bed because I am too light of a sleeper, I would never be able to cloth diaper, I would nurse for twelve months maximum, I was too busy and lazy to worry about too much nutrition, and I would be a strict, traditional disciplinarian.  Now I am a co-sleeping, cloth diapering, full term breastfeeding, mother who believes passionately in gentle parenting and consequences rather than punishment and eating whole foods whenever possible.  I truly believe that this is the best course for my family and we are all better for it, but it took me a long time to get over the disconnect between what I had always "thought" was right and what I "felt" in my heart was right.  Then, just when I had everything figured out with my first, I had a second and discovered different things worked for him!  That's why comparing yourself to other mothers or trying to just clone what they do will never work. Every baby, every mother, every situation is different. Advice (even my advice) may be kindly offered, but don't feel you have to take it too seriously.  Save yourself some pain.  Go with your gut.  

Finally, get your mom and your best friends, both other moms and at least one non-mom, on speed dial.

Being a mother is the toughest job you'll ever love, but no one should feel like they are doing it alone.  In addition to working hard to stay open and connected with your partner, make sure to connect with other women.  They will know exactly how you feel and will not judge you for your "off days."  Your non-mom friend will help you remember who you were before you were a mother when you need it.  You will not believe how easy it is to forget that if you get too consumed.

All my love and good wishes for you on this journey to the woman and mother you were always destined to be.

Thanks for reading!


Post a Comment